In 1215 the foundation of modern British and American law was formulated as part of the Great Charter in Runnymede, Surrey. The Great Charter was part of a peace treaty between the people of England and King John (1166 - 1216) before being modified by King Henry III (1216 - 1272) to the text known as The Great Charter of the Liberties or, as it is known today, the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta was first drafted by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, (c. 1150 - 1228) to make peace between the unpopular King John and a group of rebel barons. The Magna Carta was constructed to protect the rights’ of church, security for the barons from illegal imprisonment and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown. Since it’s completion the charter has become a part of English political life and is typically renewed by each monarch upon coronation.
On the same landscape as the signing of the original Magna Carta is an alternative eco-village founded in 2012 by inhabitants from the newly evicted site at Kew Bridge Eco-Village, Surrey. Located on the verge of the Cooper’s Hill, Runnymede, and measuring fifteen acres in size is Runnymede Eco-Village. The village is a peaceful cohabitation run with equality, harmony and emancipation. Within the settlement there is no elected leader, with all decisions being democratically governed by the existing population. The site is a growing community of those wanting to return to a sustainable and traditional way of life.
The work My Starting Point for Every Breath, taken from the eco-villages doctrine, documents the idiosyncrasies in a year of the life of the population and landscape. With a current population of fifty - ageing between one and seventy - they continue to develop by supporting each other with their prior experience of building homes; ranging from yurts, tepees, and the popular bender design which consist of bending cut branches into an arc, to complex wood panel or log cabins with raised sleeping platforms. With the Magna Carta celebrations approaching, the future of the village is called into question. The presence of politicians, presidents and royalty - from around the world - arriving in June has both raised community awareness and uncertainty, within the eco-village, about the future of the residency on the site.
This collaborative project My Starting Point for Every Breath, by Paul Sebastian Smith and Tom Warland, is a study of the Runnymede Eco-Village during the eight-hundredth anniversary of the Magna Carta signing. The work is currently on-going.